Local athletes anticipate record performances at Ironman 2017
Athletes from previously disadvantaged communities in Nelson Mandela Bay were part of a special training camp this month to help them prepare for qualification to the Ironman 70.3 World Championship to be held in Nelson Mandela Bay in 2018.
The initiative, part of the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) and Route 67 ambassador and professional Triathlete Kyle Buckingham is aimed at assisting previously disadvantaged athletes who have performed well in the past to potentially qualify for 2018 World championships.
The programme has six athletes, labelled the Nelson Mandela Bay Triathlon Stars and they are, Siyabulela Mpengesi, Peter Gatang’I, Faisal Ackerdien, Madoda Bambalaza, Thembile Nxele and Vukile Makeleni.
What do the athletes expect come Sunday 2nd April?
Thembile Nxele, a tyre inspector at one of the City’s large manufacturing plant will be competing in his first Ironman next month. Nxele has already competed in two 70.3 half Ironman competitions in Durban and East London last year, prior to this he only cycled.
“It is my dream to compete in the Ironman World Championship in Kona. I am financially not in a position to pay to compete overseas, so having this opportunity means a lot to me,” said Nxele.
Nxele, also adds that he earned the name Terror among his competitors and sporting companions because he is such a fierce cycling contender. Nxele, a father of two children says they are very supportive of his training. “They always encourage me to train and compete. I work shifts and on my days off they would wake me up to go train.”
Peter Gatang’I, originally from Kenya, started competing in the corporate triathlon in 2014. This was followed by competing in half Ironman competitions in Durban in 2015, and in 2016 in East London.
“Most of my friends challenged me to compete in this year’s full Ironman,” Gatang’I said.
He describes the transition from competing in a half-Ironman to a full Ironman as “totally different”.
“When I was a rookie athlete I did not have enough information about competing but now with structured programs from my coaches and this intervention from Kyle I am privileged to have the information that other competitors don’t have,” Gatang’I said.
Gatang’I has the full support of his family when it comes to his training and competing during events.
“My wife, could not swim or cycle 18 months ago. I had a positive influence on her, helped her train and she already competed in the 70.3 half Ironman in East London,” he said.
Siyabulela Mpengesi, who has already competed in 12 Ironman events including competing in full Ironman competitions in Austria (2016) and Wales (2014) says the training this week was very important.
“Having a Pro like Kyle share his winning tips on the swim, tips on efficient cycling and tactical running and nutritional information was informative and encouraging.”
Mpengesi, who is an electrical technician, says what keeps him motivated is that being an athlete is “a way of life”.
MBDA marketing and communications manager, Luvuyo Bangazi, said the purpose of the initiative was to assist the athletes to gain qualification for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Nelson Mandela Bay next year.
“It is our desire to see greater diversity and inclusivity when Nelson Mandela Bay hosts the world in 2018. This event provides us with the opportunity to build role models so that children from all across Nelson Mandela Bay can start to believe that anything is possible. Preparations for 2018 have to start now if we want to have a significant number of athletes of color competing on merit,” Bangazi said.
Image: Leading the way is Professional Ironman Triathlete Kyle Buckingham. Triathletes from Nelson Mandela Bay participated in a training camp earlier this month in preparation for Sunday’s Standard Bank Ironman African Championship also in preparation for qualification to theIronman 70.3 World Championships in Nelson Mandela Bay next year.
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